Tag Archives: Craig Hamilton

The Great Gatsby

The Great Gatsby

★★★★★

Immersive LDN

The Great Gatsby

The Great Gatsby

Immersive | LDN

Reviewed – 22nd October 2020

★★★★★

 

“Post lockdown, this show still manages to feel like a party, despite some of our freedoms taken away from us”

 

A year ago, we were collectively gearing up for what we hoped would be the “Roaring Twenties”; a replica of that momentous decade in history, particularly American history, that was chronicled so beautifully by F. Scott Fitzgerald. Little did we know what a colossal car crash we were heading for just around the corner. The characters portrayed in Fitzgerald’s novel tend to run away from their difficulties. “They were careless people… they smashed up things, and let other people clean up the mess they had made”. Jay Gatsby himself, however, was exempt from this, and his indomitable spirit lives on in “The Great Gatsby”, the immersive theatre show (London’s longest running) staged like a party at Gatsby’s mansion.

“So we beat on, boats against the current…” Those words resonate more powerfully than ever. The flow of events seems to change daily; what may be possible today might not be tomorrow, so the zeitgeist of the American dream follows us, reminding us to seize the day while we can. Post lockdown, this show still manages to feel like a party, despite some of our freedoms taken away from us. But hey, prohibition never stopped people having a good time. We’re not quite there ourselves, but in a neat echo Nick Carraway (James Lawrence) hushes the audience during the second curtain-call, as the clock strikes ten, to announce that “normally we’d be getting out of costume now and join you in the bar. But that’s illegal!”

But let’s start from the top. The first thing you notice is the detail. The venue, once you’ve passed through the temperature checks and security, sweeps you back into the Jazz Age. We are welcomed like old friends; like regulars in a Speakeasy, complicit in some sort of illicit pleasure. It is difficult not to reflect occasionally, however, what a logistical precipice the producers, creatives and cast had to scale to get the show back up and running; but these thoughts are soon dislodged by the sheer energy of the performance. Gatsby’s glamour is delivered with a punch that leaves you reeling to the bar for another cocktail at interval.

There is a common misconception about “The Great Gatsby”, so much so that the word ‘Gatsby’ itself has become synonymous with glitz. Alexander Wright’s direction obviously embraces this but also manages to cast a light onto the personalities that Fitzgerald hints at. As the key scenes are played out before us, we can witness the intimate nuances up close. Not quite as up close as we’d sometimes like. It is still immersive theatre but the interaction, like the audience, is partially veiled. It is also quite hit and miss whether you will be invited into one of the other side rooms. Understandably the promenade aspect of the show has been significantly cut back – one cannot wander around freely as before. The upside is that you don’t miss out on any of the main action.

Nick Carraway, the novels’ narrator, shares this burden with the rest of the ensemble. In fact, we see the story unfold through each character’s eyes, often overlapping at times letting us choose who to follow. And it’s a hard choice as each cast member seduces you with a riveting performance. James Lawrence beautifully takes us on his journey from mild amusement and non-judgemental confusion through to his eventual revulsion. Ivy Corbin is gorgeously watchable as she heaps humour onto the self-centred cynicism of Jordan Baker. Daisy Buchanan is given short shrift by Fitzgerald, but Lucinda Turner dresses her innate hollowness with layers of mystery and vulnerability that give her the allure for you to believe in Gatsby’s dream, while Dean Graham’s unshakeable Tom Buchanan does his best to kill that dream. Meanwhile, on the wrong side of the tracks, other dreams die. Tom’s mistress, Myrtle Wilson, is given a brilliant mix of strength and tragic energy by MJ Lee, while her long-suffering husband, George, is brought out of the shadows and given vibrancy and musicality by Lucas Jones.

The revelation is Craig Hamilton’s Gatsby. The tragic hero who pays the price for living too long with a single dream. Hamilton hits the nail on the head, playing him not as the dreamy matinee idol, but as an awkward outsider, socially clumsy, almost on the spectrum, but hugely likeable and charismatic.

What the entire cast do share is their ability to bring out the comedy too. And with Holly Beasley Garrigan’s choreography and Phil Grainger’s sound design and choice of music that give an electric modernity, the evening is a sumptuous tribute to Fitzgerald. In the ‘Roaring Twenties’ the people pursuing the American Dream within his novel were desperate to have fun. Similarly, in our current times, we are just as hungry for it. Gatsby’s mansion in Mayfair is just the place to find it.

Reviewed by Jonathan Evans

Photography by Mark Senior

 

The Great Gatsby

The Great Gatsby

Immersive | LDN until 31st January 2021

 

Last ten shows reviewed by Jonathan:
The Last Five Years | ★★★★ | Southwark Playhouse | March 2020
A Separate Peace | ★★★★ | Online | May 2020
The Understudy | ★★★★ | Online | May 2020
Godspell Online in Concert | ★★★★★ | Online | August 2020
Henry V | ★★★★ | The Maltings | August 2020
St Anne Comes Home | ★★★★ | St Paul’s Church Covent Garden | August 2020
A Hero Of Our Time | ★★★★ | Stone Nest | September 2020
The Last Five Years | ★★★★★ | Southwark Playhouse | October 2020
The Off Key | ★★★ | White Bear Theatre | October 2020
Buyer and Cellar | ★★★★ | Above the Stag | October 2020

 

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Gastronomic

★★★★★

Shoreditch Town Hall

Gastronomic

Gastronomic

Shoreditch Town Hall

Reviewed – 26th September 2019

★★★★★

 

“a smorgasbord brimming with light and shade, tension and reflection, and poetic language and cheesy jokes, leaving you fully satisfied by its end”

 

‘We cater for everything’, Nora explains, as she waxes lyrical on the beauty of gastronomy to the audience, framed as passengers on a long-haul flight. The speech is delivered through headphones that we each wear, accompanied by pulsing, transcendent music, while the lights flicker in a hypnotic canon. All the while, we’re consuming the most thematically prescient and tongue-igniting Yorkshire puddings perhaps to have ever graced the stage. I think it’s safe to say that Nora isn’t wrong.

Gastronomic centres on three chefs – Nora (Georgina Strawson), Luca (Craig Hamilton), and Agat (Ani Nelson) – catering for a first-class long-haul flight from Mumbai to Heathrow. The audience, as the passengers, subsequently get to enjoy the seven courses they produce, while their interactions reveal that their intentions may not be as clear-cut as they seem; flashbacks slowly reveal a story that’s truly about the necessity of connection and empathy between humans, and the ways in which we express it. The poignancy of this main plot is excellently counterbalanced in a parallel narrative where the actors instead play Border Control personnel, sharing banter and interacting with the audience, while also carrying an undercurrent of unsteadiness that erupts in its culmination. The devised script from curious directive (conceived by Jack Lowe) is a smorgasbord brimming with light and shade, tension and reflection, and poetic language and cheesy jokes, leaving you fully satisfied by its end.

However, Gastronomic’s script is only one of its myriad of facets. The food (prepared chiefly by head chef Clyde Ngounou and sous-chef Daniel Spirlinng) isn’t just there as a cheap gimmick – each course ties directly into the story, created as a result of the characters’ experiences and histories. At one point, Nora reminisces about what made her drop an ice cream on Brighton pier, while we devour End of Brighton Pier – what appears to be an ice cream cone but is actually deconstructed fish and chips – allowing us to essentially taste the memory. The ways in which the food manifests the psychology of the characters as well as the script’s linguistic imagery is truly staggering, and makes for a sensory experience like no other. Thankfully, every single course is also delicious, a particular highlight being the supernova of autumnal flavours that Sherwood Forest delivered.

The multi-sensory nature of the show doesn’t stop there, though. Due to the headphones being worn by the audience, it allows the sound mix (designed by Kieran Lucas) to be incredibly cinematic. The actors are free to speak as intimately as they wish, giving a surrendering sensitivity to some of the more heart-wrenching moments, while also being able to take it to the other extreme and embrace the theatricality of other scenes, which is a balance that Hamilton especially was able to utilise spectacularly with his two hugely contrasting characters. When the next course is on its way, the speech is aviated by Theo Whitworth’s soul-searing compositions and flouresced by Ed Elbourne’s liminal lighting. Jack Lowe’s design and direction of the show has ensured that everything truly has been catered for; Gastronomic is a massage for every sense. The food isn’t just for the stomach, but for the mind and soul.

 

Reviewed by Ethan Doyle

Photography by Ali Wright

 


Gastronomic

Shoreditch Town Hall until 12th October

 

Previously reviewed at this venue:
Madhouse re:exit | ★★★½ | March 2018
The Nature of Forgetting | ★★★★ | April 2018
We can Time Travel | ★★★ | April 2018
Suicide Notes … The Spoken Word of Christopher Brett Bailey | ★★★½ | May 2018
These Rooms | ★★★★★ | June 2018
Busking It | ★★★★ | October 2018
Shift | ★★★★ | May 2019

 

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